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Bonnaroo day 2
:: June 14, 2014 :: by Kirk Windus

            We had a feeling that yesterday would be incredible, and it’s safe to say that we weren’t disappointed. Day two was packed full of some of our favorite artists, and every performance we saw was special.

            After publishing yesterday’s post and eating some food we headed over to see Sam Smith. Smith is a soulful, pop/R&B singer from the UK who’s probably most known for featuring on Disclosure’s hit song “Latch.”

            Smith bet his mother that no one would show up to his first American festival appearance, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. Smith packed the tent as full as you could imagine as he played through some of his popular sings, mixing in a couple from his new album, releasing this Tuesday, as well as an Arctic Monkeys cover.

            Smith is a throwback to an older generation with a modern spin. He has the vocal style and chops of the great soul singers— much like another Sam, yes, Sam Cook. He showed his incredible command of his powerful falsetto, singing in registers most of us wouldn’t even dream of for fear of injuring ourselves.

            An amazing moment came when he showed the crowd his take on Disclosure’s “Latch,” a delicate, piano driven ballad full of beautiful vocal runs and tear-jerking falsetto flares.

            Next, we watched an artist I knew very little about named Danny Brown. He’s made a name for himself through his dark brand of hip-hop and his onstage antics— he once received a blowjob on stage.

            One thing about Danny is clear: his fans have a real passion for his music. The moment there was an opening ahead, fans pushed to see how close to the stage they could get. Brown was a little late to the show, but the crowd jumped and filed on top of each other even as his DJ played songs during the wait.

            So as you can imagine, the crowd went bat-shit insane when he finally took the stage. Moshing like it was a metal show, the crowd’s energy never subsided, not really even between songs.

            Next, we went to see England’s Ben Howard. Joe and I are both pretty big fans of Howard, and being in the photographer’s pit for his show was something really special. The little subtleties of Howard’s sound can get lost in the huge, festival setting, but in the pit, every little ambient organ or synth sound is noticeable.

            If you know anything about Howard you know that the man straight up knows how to play guitar. Much like a UK style John Mayer, Howard never uses a pick and plays incredibly intricate finger picking while singing his difficult melodic vocal lines and somehow makes it look effortless.

            His band played a little of everything behind him instrumentation-wise. At one point his drummer was even playing cymbals with a guitar. His bass player also played organ pedals, drums and more.

            More than anything, Howard amazes with his versatility. From spindly finger picking to up-tempo, electric guitar rock, he played through his set with an amazing sort of relaxed intensity. Songs like “Only Love,” which are incredibly difficult to play, looked almost too easy in the hands of the very talented Ben Howard.

            There were so many amazing artists playing on day two that Joe and I had to split up to be able to cover all the artists we wanted to cover. So at this point I headed over to see The Naked and Famous. The band brought their huge sounding electric indie-pop to ‘Roo right after Howard closed. The band have created a lot of buzz in the last year, so the crowd was huge and media were flocking to get some shots of the band.

            Photographers packed the pit in front of the stage, which sometimes annoys artists, who request that photographers are only present for three songs, but the band seemed to revel in it, smiling at photographers as they tried to dodge the beach ball flying about the crowd. (Later the lead singer would kick the ball off stage, which consequently hit me in the face. It must be love.)

            The crowd, more so than a lot of crowds we saw on day 2, really seemed to pour themselves into the bands set. I watched as all throughout the crowd people screamed the words, eyes closed, hands up like they were experiencing something truly transcendent. If you don’t know the band yet, you’re going to want to get to know them soon, because things are coming for them.

            Next came my personal favorite set of the day, The Head and the Heart. One of my good friends in high school introduced me to The Head and the Heart, and I fell in love instantly. When their new album came out this year I immediately wrote a review. The 6-piece folk group played a mix of songs from their two albums to a massive crowd, as they played one of the festival’s two main stages.

            “Cruel” is one of my favorite songs ever written, so that song may just be my very favorite moment of day two. Shamelessly, I closed my eyes, threw my hands in the air and sang slightly off-key versions of harmony. I probably attracted a few stares because I was alone, but it’s Bonnaroo. So fuck it.

            “Shake” may have been one of the day’s best performances, but like I said, I’m a little prejudiced. The band interacted more with the crowd than most performers, and I think that shows just how comfortable they are on stage, speaking to a crowd that may not all be fans like normal shows.

            In a literally picture perfect moment, the sun began to set behind the band as they closed out their set. Anyone on stage with photography rights probably got the best shot of the entire day during that show.

            Next, I headed over to the main stage, which becomes a small city during the day, to see Vampire Weekend. They played through their chill indie-rock to probably one of the biggest crowds they’ve ever played to, the cameras always focused on the amazing Ezra Koenig.

            The thing first timers like myself don’t know about Bonnaroo is that it’s truly a marathon. 12 hours of standing on your feet can get to you pretty quick, and by the time Vampire Weekend came around I was a little dehydrated, very hungry, very tired and very ready to see Kanye.

            Joe and I headed over the main stage area early to eat and get a good spot for the set we’d both been anticipating all day.

            In 2008, Bonnaroo got the best of Kanye, who showed up three hours late for his set, but it’s safe to say that Kanye put Bonnaroo its place last night. He played songs from every album and every major appearance he’s done. Everything from the “All Falls Down” to “New Slaves” to “Heartless” were performed.

            At times bizzare, at times transcendent, Kanye covered all of the bases that you’d expect him to cover. Whether it be screaming “Where the press at?” in anger, (awkward) or proclaiming himself the number one rockstar in the world, the arrogant  but amazing Kanye you showed up in full force. But, so did the Kanye who’s made millions being the best and most consistent face in rap music over the last decade. 10,000 people jumped together, screamed together and smiled together as Kanye played the songs that inevitably make up the soundtrack, in one way or another, to their life. All theatrics aside, it’s safe to say that Kanye stole the show on day 2 and all headliners to follow have a lot to live up to.

            After Kanye I planned on seeing Chance the Rapper, so I headed over the tent he was performing at later and caught the end of a superjam that included guests like Ben Folds and Chaka Khan. Sadly, I literally couldn’t stand or stay awake long enough to see Chance, who I’d been looking forward to all week.

            Regardless, Friday was without a doubt the best day of my musical life and I can’t wait to see what day three brings, including Kevin Devine, Cake, Grouplove, Cage the Elephant, Lionel Richie, Jack White and Frank Ocean. Look out for more from Joe and I today and tomorrow and check the WSBU twitter for updates throughout the day!

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